Comfortable, Efficient Home
Not so Big House
–Between monster commutes, mammoth
homes and gargantuan lawns, many people are struggling to
find space for just living. The Not So Big House
by Sarah Susanka, brings to light a new way of thinking
about what makes a place feel like home. Hint: It's got
nothing to do with size.
Old House Web
– If you live in a place that is
walkable & bikeable you probably live in an older home
(at least until they start building livable new
This is an excellent resource for keeping that old place
up to snuff without snuffing out its historic character.
–"We're from the government and we're here
to help you," is actually true in this case. The Environmental
Protection Agency's consumer product website is the motherlode
of energy efficient product information. Don't even think
about buying a new appliance, furnace or anything that uses
energy in the home without stopping here first. The site
rates energy use of all appliances which surpass minimum
federal standards by 20% or more. The site also includes
useful energy calculators and faqs for improving home comfort
and efficiency. Perform an energy audit of your home, right
from your computer at the Energy Star site http://hes.lbl.gov/
Efficient Windows Collaborative
– The collaborative
with support from the Dept of Energy, helps homeowners understand
how windows function, so that they can make informed decisions
in purchasing windows.
US Dept. of Energy
– A lot of useful information
about more efficient energy use in daily life - home, business,
transportation. Most significantly, they have resources
for accessing home help funds for low-income folks in need
of weatherization assistance.
– Written for the performance-minded
home remodeler, both professional and consumer. It has most
of their articles up through 2000 archived in a searchable
on Energy Site
– Wisconsinites can find financial
incentives for efficiency upgrades and renewable energy
at the Wisconsin Focus on Energy site.
Assets and Co-op America
– A plug-n-play guide
for socially and environmentally conscious consumers to
divine corporate responsibility. You can divine corporate
policy on issues from sweatshop labor to pollution. Energy
isn't the only thing we should be saving.
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Clean lawns, quiet
The silent reel lawn mower is one of the 10 greatest,
most environmentally friendly tools ever devised. Powered
by metabolic energy and made efficient by momentum, this
thing will cut your grass just as nicely as the standard
air & noise polluting mower. According to the EPA,
one hour of motorized mower use is the equivalent of driving
400 miles in a V-10 SUV. Power tools such as mowers, blowers
& throwers account for 5% of smog in the US. The new
silent push mowers aren't the clunky contraptions grampa
had in the garage either. Expect a nice cut, easy pushing
and clean air from these babies.
take on push-mowers – a great user friendly
guide & overview of the growing silent mower movement
Silent Reel – We have owned three different
brands of push mower. Decidedly, the Agri-Fab Silent Reel
is the best push mower there is. You pay a little more,
but the quality of the machinery & cut is well worth
livable lawn – A commercial site with push mowers,
rain barrels, and composters of all types.
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Sub-compact fluorescents are the only way to go now
that they have been developed to produce a nice soft light.
These are not the hazy blue-ish fluorescents of yesteryear.
Think of your nicest soft white incandescent; that's the
type light these put off. They fit just about anywhere the
old incandescents do. And they last 10 times longer yet
consume a mere 1/4 the energy of comparable incandescents.
Payback is measured in months (try matching that in the
of Energy Specifications
– Some local hardware
stores and discounters are starting to carry these bulbs,
but be careful! Make sure that they conform to the Dept
of Energy specifications
– Sells sub-cfl's in small batches and
bulk at a great price and good service.
– Provides great emergency lighting efficiency
solutions for both new and retrofit. Emergency lighting
in exit signs is a major drain of electricity. In older
fixtures, two incandescent bulbs fry 40 watts per hour,
every hour, every day, every year, etc. Mule has retrofit
bulbs that will burn just 2.4 watts per hour, last practically
forever and produce virtually no heat. Payback is measured
in months, especially when you consider the amount of labor
saved not changing them out every few months.
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Water & Hot Water
Water is becoming quite the hot topic as sources of
clean water get depleted and overrun by high consumption
habits. Meanwhile, heating hot water constitutes about a
third of overall home energy consumption. Much of the energy
burned is wasted, up the flue or just from standing around
hot but unused. Tankless water heaters have long been used
in energy conscious Europe and Asia and are now starting
to catch on here. Solar, though expensive up front, is benefitting
from incentive programs in various states. Here are some
sites that will help you keep water consumption in perspective.
Water – Get the latest news on national water
conservation issues. This site is backed by Energy Technology
Laboratories, an outfit that has their heart is in the right
place & efforts are going in the right direction.
Home Energy Magazine – is an excellent lay readers
guide to all things hot water heating. This article explains
basic water heater function with an eye toward maintaining
maximum efficiency. It also provides all the pro's &
con's of tank vs. tankless water heaters as well as how
to configure the plumbing for maximum efficiency. It is
a tad dated (for example, tankless water heaters have overcome
most of the objections raised here), but the basic concepts
presented here continue to hold.
Technology Laboratories – A high quality line
of water conservation products. The shower is so luxurious
that you won't even know you are conserving! Water and water
heating bills will plummet with these ultra-low flow showers
and aerators. Their secret lies in mixing the water and
air in a way that doesn't make you feel like you are using
a low-flow product (nor does it take your skin off like
the old low-flow models!).
Love – This is the kind of site I love, witty,
passionate and informative–about toilets! This plumber
extraordinaire, is way into his toilets–the ones that
work and use very little water. If you currently
have a 3.5 gallon per flush (or greater) water hog, expect
to save at least $100 per year (probably more in arid areas)
following Terry's advice.
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Flappin' in the Breeze
The cheapest, most effective solar and wind powered
system is the clothesline. Line drying clothes is practical,
convivial and refreshing–and, did I mention?–
Cheap. Here are some great sites with great ideas
and products for giving your clothes a break from the abuse
of machine drying.
the Breeze – Here it is: the zen of line drying
clothes! The philosophy of life on the line! The fun of
lettin' it all hang out!
Happy Hippie – Speaking of hanging out, the Happy
Hippie has some very practical advice on how to live without
a machine clothes dryer.
Farmer's Almanac – Takes a new look at line drying
with a bit of practical how-to.
and Community – An essay on clotheslines from
a co-housing listserv.
for a Healthier Planet – The clothesline is one
of the seven wonderful tools for a healthier planet according
to John C. Ryan.
Clothesline in Canada – The clothesline, a sense
of home and clean air are brought together in this short
essay from Canada.
Pulleys – Ideal for setting up a simple backyard
Sunline – The retractable clothesline is what
we have been using frequently for the past 7 years to make
the most of our postage stamp backyard.
– ArtWeger has a large selection of indoor clothes
drying racks for winter and rainy days. Our favorite is
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– A wealth of green building news with developments
in the private sector as well as public policy toward a
– A University of Wisconsin-Extension program
designed to help reduce toxics risks in the home from hazardous
chemicals, drinking water and paint.
Services – Provides Home Efficiency Rating System
checks of new and older homes in southern Wisconsin.
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Renewable Energy for
We've put this at the end of the living section for
a reason: Solar energy is expensive and only truly effective
if strong home performance measures have been put in place.
Most American homes & personal habits require too
much energy for solar energy to be a viable alternative.
Most people shouldn't even consider solar power until
they have gotten their total home electric consumption
well below 75 kilowatthours/adult/month (add another 50
kwh/kid/month). Home performance measures would need to
bring total annual combined energy usage (gas, electric)
below $500/year for solar to begin to make sense.
Midwest Renewable Energy Association – After
you've made your home as energy efficient as it can be,
consider researching alternative energy sources. This
is one of the best places to start.
– Promoting photovoltaic solar in conjunction with
federal and state incentives.
Water Heating Facts – The Dept of Energy's site
for solar water heating, complete with factsheets and
useful links to related sites.
Millionsolar Roofs – All the latest news on
progress on getting more solar panels across the country.
Canada – The Canadian EPA, (eh!) has a wealth
of information on solar energy and advanced woodburning
only! – Get the latest developments in renewables
at the Renewable Energy Policy Project site.
Renewable Energy Laboratory – Fun reading
to get a perspective on where a different national energy
policy might lead us. The site has lots of good links
to other organizations around the world doing research
and promoting renewable energy. Very tech-oriented. Energy
efficiency (except for driving more energy efficient cars
more miles) doesn't figure much into their world view,
as is evidenced by the fact that they are located in a
highly un-sustainable sprawl location– beyond walking,
biking, and transit. A recent attempt to get their research
workers to leave their cars at home flopped!
provides a worldwide directory of solar energy equipment
suppliers and installers.
Matters – If you are really getting into
the solar thing, Energy Matters would be a good one to
peruse. Dozens of alternative (and not so alternative)
energy equipment providers are listed and described here.
Energy Technologies – An online catalog of energy
efficiency and alternative energy products. We like their
emphasis on energy efficiency before going into
solar or wind energy systems. We have no experience dealing
with them, however.
Heat Organization – Discover how wood heat,
properly designed and installed, can be an environmentally
friendly, fun & cozy way to keep warm. This site is
a gem, obviously a work of passion and well-grounded in
– Lots of resources for those getting into woodheating.
Stove ratings, user forums and industry news are on offer
here. This is a slightly more commercial & detached
venture than the Wood Heat Organization site, but useful
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